What is Point Spread Betting in Sports Betting?

Sportsbooks and sports betting use a lot of different terms. These terms can make it difficult to understand sports betting. However, once you learn these terms, you will feel far more comfortable when wagering on sports such as basketball, American football, and ice hockey. 

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Oddsmakers use a point spread in sports betting to make a game between two unbalanced teams more balanced. They do this by giving points to or taking points away from each team. Think of it as sportsbooks giving a weaker team a headstart against the strong side.

The favorite team in a game is indicated by a minus (-) sign. Following the minus sign is a number of points that are taken away from the favourite team’s final score. The underdog has plus (+) sign followed by the same number of points which is added to its final score.

NFL Spread Betting

Spread betting is most common in American sports betting for leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL. However, you can find it in other sports as well. Spread betting makes games closer and more exciting to wager on as the gulf in quality is typically large in NFL games. It also gives you the chance to win more money in profits than simply betting on the moneyline of an NFL game.

Let’s look at an example:

Kansas City Chiefs -4.5

Las Vegas Raiders +4.5

Kansas City is the favorite at -4.5. This means the Chiefs need to win the game by five points or more for the bet to win. In contrast, the Raiders are the underdog at +4.5.  The Raiders must win outright or not lose the game by more than four points for the bet to be victorious.

Unlike outright betting, if you wagered on the underdog Raiders at +4.5 and they lost, you would still win the bet as long as they lost by four points or fewer. Point spread betting can be very beneficial to sports bettors.

If the Chiefs win 21-18, they win by three points. This means they would not cover the 4.5 point spread. The Raiders, on the other hand, have covered the spread by staying within 4.5 points of the Chiefs at the final whistle. A bet on the underdog would be successful despite the Raiders losing.

NBA Spread Betting

Spread betting is the most popular way to bet on NBA games — and college basketball games as well. NBA point spread betting is wagering on how many points a team can either win or lose by — just like in the NFL.

Let’s look at an example

LA Clippers -4.5

Denver Nuggets +4.5

The Clippers are the favorite in this example and need to win by five or more points to ensure the bet is a winner. If you wager on the underdog Nuggets, then you need them to lose by four points or fewer to win the bet. The Nuggets can also win for the bet to be victorious. Like in the NFL, NBA spread betting makes games more even on both sides.

NHL Spread Betting

Spread betting is known as puck line wagering in ice hockey. It works the same as in the NBA and NFL. The favorite team must win by more goals than what is outlined. The underdog must either win or lose by fewer goals than what is outlined.

Here’s our example:

Tampa Bay Lightning -2.5

Florida Panthers +2.5

The Lightning are the favourite to win and must defeat the Panthers by three or more goals for the bet to win. The Panthers must either win or lose by no more than 2.0 goals for the wager to be successful. Think of the spread bet as a head start for the underdog.

Understanding point spread betting

It is important to note that the favorite often wins games in the NFL, NBA, or NHL straight up. However, they often fail to cover the spread. This means you may consider betting on the underdog when teams are closely matched.

Sportsbooks will alter the points spread odds on games to get as much action on both sides as possible. Using our Tampa Bay versus Florida example from above, if most of the wagers are being placed on the favorite (the Lightning) then a sportsbook will alter the odds to make Florida look more appealing to bettors. This could inspire more wagers on the underdog to even out the amount of money being wagered on both sides. This prevents the sportsbook from losing a significant amount of money — potentially making money on the game.

Points spread betting is more attractive to some bettors than moneyline bets. Why? Not only does the underdog get a headstart, but the payouts are identical no matter which side you wager on. Moneyline betting differs as you simply wager on one team to win. Spread betting gives you the chance to bet on the favorite to win by a specified number of points or the underdog to lose by a certain number of points or win.

Benefits of Spread Betting in Sports

There are a number of benefits to spread betting in sports. Perhaps the most obvious is that you can bet on the loser and still win the bet. You can wager on a team that you think is “underestimated” that can put together a strong performance. They may still lose but if they cover the spread, you win.

You can also determine value more clearly when making a spread bet. Rather than the moneyline giving you value in terms of money such as +200, you can determine the value in the number of points a team must cover.

Now that you know more about spread betting, you may be more willing to take advantage of it. Spread betting offers the potential to earn profits on sports betting. It is a tool used by sharp/professional bettors because it works. If it is utilized by the pros, then you can add it to your arsenal of betting tools to exploit the sportsbooks. Good luck!


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